A Word

Sometimes, It’s Simply About Starting Somewhere.

Isaac’s Tumor

So, there’s an episode on Grey’s Anatomy titled Give Peace A Chance, where a lab technician named Isaac (Faran Tahir) approached Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), a world-renowned neurosurgeon, with scans of an inoperable spinal tumor. Dr. Maranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) referred to the tumor as “the great white of all tumors.” Not knowing that the tumor belonged to Isaac, Derek, just after one glance, was inspired. He wanted to operate. Now, if you’ve seen this episode, feel free to jump to the paragraph which states: Start Here. If you haven’t, keep reading or logon to Netflix to watch season six, episode seven.

Back to the episode! Now, of course, there were multiple exchanges between Isaac and Derek, but in the end, Derek agreed to operate. Prior to attempting to remove the tumor, Derek understood that he had two options. The first was after opening the patient up he would cut the patient’s spinal chord in efforts to completely remove the tumor without killing him. But, this option would essentially leave Isaac paralyzed from the neck down. The second option was to find a way to completely remove the tumor without cutting the spinal chord. This option came with greater challenges because the tumor found a way to extensively wrap itself around the Isaac’s spinal chord, invading blood supply, and disrupting veins and nerve roots. The tumor was smart, complex, and in a scientific sort of way, gorgeous. Knowing Derek’s initial response, Isaac encouraged Derek to consider the latter.

On the day of the surgery, Derek opened Isaac up, exposing the tumor. Derek found that there was no clear way to begin. He stood in the operating room for ten hours, looking at the tumor without ever making a cut. Out of fear of subjecting the patient to infection, Derek decided to close and retire Isaac to the recovery wing of the hospital. Derek explained to Isaac that there was no way to remove the tumor without cutting the chord or killing him, Isaac smiled with promise in his eyes and asked Derek to sleep on it. To understand Isaac’s persistence towards the latter choice and his unwillingness to give up, one must understand his past. Isaac lost everything, his entire family to terrorism in his country; his wife, children, home, and other relatives. It’s safe to say that Isaac had nothing to lose. Sure, Derek went home, but he didn’t sleep. He burned the midnight oil with his wife (also a surgeon, Meredith Grey, Ellen Pompeo) to find a solution. What he realized was that no matter where he started, there was risk. He also realized that the scans Isaac provided only gave him a glance of what the tumor actually looked like. He simply had to open Isaac up, pick a place to start, and cut. There could be no plan because with a plan, doubt and uncertainty would ensue. Now, for the sake of time (yours and mine), Derek completely removed the tumor without paralyzing or killing Isaac.

Start here. Continue reading “Sometimes, It’s Simply About Starting Somewhere.”

Is This Business As Usual?

It has been just over a month since “the NAfME situation.” Droves of people from many spaces in the music profession responded intensely by posting their frustrations, opinions, and concerns on social media. Some went so far as to constructing letters, individually and collectively, urging national, state, and local organizations to rethink their approaches toward diversity and activism. Outside of those responses, I speculate that many individuals voiced their concerns by speaking with trusted colleagues and friends within disclosed spaces. People were upset and perplexed and not without cause. But, I believe that we have arrived to a familiar place—silence. While it’s been only a short time since the incident, I haven’t seen or heard much from individuals, institutions, or organizations about their future plans to act. Have we reached a cease fire? Even more so, I ask, is this business as usual? In addition to the silence, I have recognized characteristics that are common with social media engagements—self promotion.

Whether we are confronted with unethical and racist statements or we are energized by incredible conference or festival presentations (musical, research, etc.) decorated with attractive Prezi, Keynote, and PowerPoint nuances, our energy or motivation to act beyond those perimeters often diminish. It’s like, we get fired up to make an impact, to change our world, or to shake things up, just to revert back to. We backslide into silence or passive aggressiveness. In the words of Jay-Z, it’s “On to the next one.” We keep it moving. But, why? Continue reading “Is This Business As Usual?”

Moving Beyond Shock and Awe: How Will the Music Education Profession Respond?

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME), formerly known as the Music Educators National Conference or MENC, has come to an interesting crossroad. As mentioned in Keryl McCord’s article titled Why We Must Have Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in the Arts: A Response to the National Association for Music Education, she provided personal accounts of NAfME’s (former) CEO, Michael Butera’s, actions in a meeting she attended. To those of you who haven’t already read or become familiar with McCord’s article and its content, take a couple of minutes to do so. Now, assuming that you have read it, it’s at the very least interesting, right?

For the sake of not regurgitating McCord’s article word for word like almost everyone in every other social media outlet has done, I have chosen to temporarily move beyond the “shock and awe” surrounding Butera and cut to the chase. Yes, as depicted by McCord, Butera’s alleged comments and actions were at their best horrid, ridiculous, awful, racist, and down right inappropriate. However. I find it even more ridiculous that many individuals in our profession have knowingly endorsed and elevated Butera and others like him into positions of great influence without considering their core values and how they align with the mission and purpose of their organizations and constituents. Butera’s actions are just a slither of a greater whole of racism and unethical tactics that reside in the music education profession and other fields, many of which that are hidden from plain view. But as my grandmother used to say, “That rooster has come home to roost and now everyone is all of a sudden up in arms.” Continue reading “Moving Beyond Shock and Awe: How Will the Music Education Profession Respond?”

Is this the Beginning of the End for Affirmative Action?

UnknownFisher v. University of Texas at Austin (2011) serves as an illustration of how the intersection of race and education continues to present challenges for both legal and educational communities in the 21st century. Similar to the petitioners of Bakke (1978) and Grutter (2003), Abigail Fisher, a White woman, also argued against using race as a means to achieve diversity within the student population of the university. Although Fisher did not graduate in the top 10% of her high school class, she argued that UT’s denial violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection because she was denied admission to a public university in favor of minority students with lesser credentials.

Due to the fact that the court denied Fisher an en banc hearing by a 9-7 ruling, her lawyers filed a petition seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court in September of 2011. By October 2012, Fisher was on the calendar of the Supreme Court. The Court declined to adopt Fisher’s argument, ruling that her continued pursuit of her claim was no longer viable. According to UT, had it exclusively employed race-neutral admissions, Fisher would not have been admitted not only due to the fact that she did not graduate in the top 10% of her class, but due to UT’s competitive individualized review of applications, which included an Academic Index (AI) and a Personal Achievement Index (PAI). The AI consists of grades and standardized test scores and “race is considered in a contextualized fashion only in the PAI” (Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin, 2013). Fisher argued on the assumption that her PAI was lower because of race. UT stated that Fisher would have still been denied even if she had a “perfect” PAI. In a decision of 7-1, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated their decision on June 24, 2013, sending Fisher back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, stating that it failed to apply “strict scrutiny” (Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin, 2013).

Arguments for Fisher continued on November 13, 2013 at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. . . . some sources have reported that the hearing examined UT’s race-conscious admission policies, race-neutral alternatives, and how the definition of critical mass is defined and what should take place after it has been reached. The Court’s examination also reflected on UTs history and experience in developing its admissions policies in regards to constitutionality. From 1997 to 2004, UT experimented with multiple admission approaches in efforts to increase minority attendance from high school students in Texas. During this time only 3-4% of students admitted were African American. After UT employed the Top Ten Percent rule, between 2005 and 2008 enrollment of African Americans increased considerably by 28% (Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin, 2013).

McCall, J. M. (2015, p. 16)

After hearing Fisher’s arguments again on November 13, 2015, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, ruled in favor of UT on July 15, 2014. Following the lower Courts’ refusAl to rehear the case again, Fisher petitioned for the SCOTUS to hear her case on June 29, 2015. She was then granted yet another opportunity to appear on the floor of the U.S. Supreme Court. So, that brings us to December 23, 2015, just fifteen days after the Supreme Court heard once again the oral arguments of both Fisher and UT. My interpretation of the arguments and commentary of the justices, the case was simply is a repeat its first appearance in the Supreme Court in 2013. Taking into account the latter, and analyzing the current status of a American college system that is ambiguous in its interpretation of diversity and ways to achieve it, I am perplexed as to why this case has gone on so long and why it made to the floor of the SCOTUS—again. Continue reading “Is this the Beginning of the End for Affirmative Action?”